Few fandoms love a good myth— and perpetuating a myth for years and years— as much as gamers. From the days of tall tales spread across playgrounds of impossible feats to that kid in every class who supposedly had a mom or uncle that worked at Nintendo, gamers have always loved a juicy rumor or urban legend, no matter how hard it was to believe.
But today we have the internet. Now we can actually fact check a lot of the gaming myths we've been hearing about and sharing since childhood. And there is no reason why these 20 myths about Sega need to continue to be repeated when they are not only false, been easily proven as such. Just don't expect us to get to the bottom of whether or not Genesis truly did do what Nintendon't... that one is open to interpretation and always will be.
20 Myth: The Genesis Launched With Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog— not just the character but his original game— is so enmeshed with the Genesis that it's easy to assume it was not only a launch game but the system's original pack-in title. Indeed, many people think both of those things are true, when in fact neither of them are.
The Genesis launched in the U.S. in 1989, and the previous year in Japan (as the Mega Drive, which is how it was also known everywhere else)... with Sonic the Hedgehog not hitting either territory until 1991. Prior to that, the Genesis had been bundled with the arcade port of Altered Beast, and Alex Kidd was the system's answer to Mario before Sonic was born.
19 Myth: Sega Was Founded In Japan
Sega has definitely been a primarily "Japanese company"— though with a major American branch— for much of its prominence, and the bulk of its games are developed in Japan or by Japanese developers. Because of this, the common assumption is that Sega was founded in Japan and has always been rooted there. In fact, Sega was founded in Hawaii in 1960 by two American businessmen, and its American branch was its primary arm until the early 1980s when Japan became its new home base and has been ever since.
18 Myth: Michael Jackson Wrote The Music For Sonic 3
Controversial pop icon Michael Jackson was a well-known gamer, and had a long partnership with Sega that involved starring and appearing in several of their games. An oft-repeated rumor is that Jackson wrote the soundtrack for Sonic 3, but his name was taken off of it when misconduct allegations against him came to light around that time.
However, to hear most of the people closest to the project tell it, Jackson was in talks to write the soundtrack for Sonic 3, but Sega decided not to go forward with that plan (for obvious reasons). Instead, some of his longtime collaborators were brought on board to write a very Jackson-esque soundtrack for the game... but it isn't actually his music.
17 Myth: Dreamcast Wasn't Selling Well
Sega's Dreamcast remains one of the most beloved consoles of all time, and has some of the most beloved games of all time. So why did it die so quickly? The most obvious— and widely-accepted— answer would be that it sold poorly, but that's not exactly true. The Dreamcast actually debuted to strong sales of both its hardware and software, and was pacing far better than some other consoles that still got full lifespans.
A major recession in Japan at the time meant that Sega couldn't afford to just let Dreamcast live on as a comfortable second-place machine, and only if Dreamcast had been a massive, PlayStation 2-level success would the console had stood a chance given the wintry economic climate of the time.
16 Myth: Yuji Naka "Created" Sonic The Hedgehog
Whenever former Sega veteran Yuji Naka is written about, it's often coupled with calling him the "creator" of Sonic the Hedgehog, which sells short the other two people who had just as big— if not bigger— of a hand in the conception and creation of the iconic blue hedgehog and his first adventure.
Naka's role in the first Sonic game was mostly just as a programmer, which is no doubt an important contribution, but Sonic himself was designed by Naoto Ohshima, and Sonic 1's gameplay and the signature aesthetic were the work of Hirokazu Yasuhara. This makes Naka Sonic's co-creator at best, and it's time more people knew the names of the other two equally important people behind Sega's most popular character and series.
15 Myth: The Genesis Had A Secret Weapon Called "Blast Processing"
One of the most effective commercials that Sega used to illustrate the Genesis' perceived dominance over the Super NES was to show how much faster Sonic the Hedgehog moved than Super Mario Kart. It was then that gamers were told that something called "Blast Processing" was what made Genesis games speedier than SNES titles.
In all fairness, Sonic was a great deal faster than most SNES games, and there are cases of multiplatform games— such as EA's sports games— running faster on the Genesis. But "Blast Processing" is a completely invented phrase that is merely clever marketing jargon and doesn't actually describe any special aspect of the Genesis's architecture.
14 Myth: The Saturn Was Primarily Designed To Play 2D Games
Sega did a lot of things wrong with the Saturn— but there is no denying that they turned it into one of gaming history's most impressive 2D powerhouses. 2D capability is one area where the Saturn was objectively superior to the PlayStation, while the reverse is true of 3D and polygons. This had led many to assume that Sega deliberately designed the Saturn with only 2D in mind, and just shoved in 3D capabilities at the last minute when they saw what Sony was hyping.
In later interviews, various people who were involved in designing and building the Saturn hardware have maintained that 3D was always the goal alongside 2D, and that they knew how important it was for the Saturn to be able to handle home ports of games like Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA.
13 Myth: The Master System Was Sega's First Game Console
Even if Genesis/Mega Drive was your first Sega console, you were probably still aware that it was the follow-up to the company's 8-bit Master System. Where in the world you lived at the time might dictate how prominent the Master System was under your particular gaming bubble, but either way, there's a good chance you didn't know it wasn't Sega's first console. In fact, Sega had entered the console market way back in 1983 with its SG-1000 game system, which you probably never heard of because it was quickly swallowed up by the NES and Sega abandoned it pretty quickly to work on its successor.
12 Myth: Shenmue Was The Most Expensive Game In History At The Time
Dreamcast epic Shenmue was extremely ambitious for its time, and its budget far exceeded most other games of the era— many calling it the most expensive game of all time. But in actuality, even the high end of Shenmue's estimated development and marketing budget only puts it at about $70 million— Final Fantasy VII, on the other hand, is said to have cost $45 million to develop with over $100 million spent just on U.S. marketing alone. In addition, much of Shenmue's budget estimates also include the preliminary work done on its sequel, further eating into how much the original game cost in and of itself.
11 Myth: The SNES Clobbered The Genesis In Sales
Sure, SNES had the higher total number of hardware units sold than the Genesis/Mega Drive worldwide, 49 million to Genesis' 35 by most estimates, but many assume that the SNES absolutely creamed the Genesis, and that isn't entirely true.
For starters, the Genesis spent several years handily outselling the SNES in the U.S., and it was largely due to some late-generation releases like Donkey Kong Country and Chrono Trigger that saw the SNES take the lead in the home stretch, some of which was during a time when Sega had already moved on to the next console generation anyway. And in other parts of the world, namely Europe and South America, the Genesis outsold the SNES as much as 2:1 in some regions, meaning that the SNES didn't "win" everywhere.
10 Myth: Sega CD Had Nothing But Full-Motion Video Games
When most people think of the Sega CD, especially now, they think of those grainy full-motion video "games" full of cheesy acting and only the occasional arbitrary button press to differentiate between just watching them and actually playing them.
But that simply isn't fair to the underrated platform, which had a pretty impressive library of games in its short life, only about a third of which were actually the FMV games that people lump the system in with. The Sega CD library had games in just about every genre imaginable, and many made great use of the CD-ROM format by having better sound, crisper visuals, and more content than was possible on the vanilla Genesis or the SNES.
9 Myth: Sega Has Been Struggling Since Dreamcast
People have spent the better part of the last two decades assuming Sega is constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, and that simply isn't the case. Sega has multiple franchises that sell well and comfortably keep them in the black, as do various other business ventures and partnerships. In fact, when ex-Sega vet Yu Suzuki was asked if Sega was upset with him over how much money Shenmue lost, he claimed that the profits from his Virtua Fighter 3 and 4 alone more than recouped what Shenmue had lost— so even back then, the company had bounced back from its post-Dreamcast rut just fine.
8 Myth: Sonic X-treme Was Going To Be 3D Like Super Mario 64
Most people agree that one of the biggest contributors to the Sega Saturn's failure was that it never had its own core Sonic game. There was such a game in the works, Sonic X-treme, but legendary development troubles prevented it from ever being completed. The assumption that Sonic X-treme was going to be the Saturn's answer to Super Mario 64 in terms of taking place in a free-roaming 3D world isn't accurate, however— in fact, it had more in common with Crash Bandicoot as it largely took place in a linear, scrolling world with limited 3D movement within that world. Only the boss stages were going to be in fully 3D space.
7 Myth: Genesis Died In The Mid-90s
Unlike today, console generations used to have a much more clearly-defined "end," the point at which the console was officially discontinued and made way for its predecessor to have the spotlight all to itself. For the 16-bit consoles, this end is generally assumed to have happened around 1997/1998, when the last holdouts finally joined the PlayStation/Saturn/Nintendo 64 generation.
Indeed, Sega itself officially discontinued manufacturing the Genesis in 1998— but that was far from its end. By 1992, a company called Tec Toy had already been selling officially-licensed Mega Drive consoles to various parts of the world, where they still sold fairly well. Eventually, a second company (AtGames) also joined the fray and have been selling their own Genesis and Mega Drive consoles, joining Tec Toy who still sells and supports their Mega Drive in Brazil.
6 Myth: Jet Grind Radio Was The First "Cel-Shaded" Game
Jet Grind Radio— also known as Jet Set Radio in other regions— was not only one of the Dreamcast's funnest games, it was one of its most visually-arresting. The game's "cel-shaded" art style put dark black borders around the game's characters and items, giving it the look of a hand-drawn cartoon even though it was built using polygons.
Many hadn't seen cel-shading in a 3D game before, and so credited— and continue to credit— JGR with inventing it, especially since the look exploded afterward. In fact, there were games that featured the exact same visual trick released before JGR, most notably the action/adventure game Fear Effect for the PlayStation— though the PS1 didn't have the power to make the look pop quite like JGR's did.
5 Myth: Game Gear Was A Flop
Any handheld system that isn't made by Nintendo is automatically assumed to have been a flop— even Sony's PlayStation Portable is sometimes dismissed as a failure even though it sold over 80 million units worldwide. The Game Gear definitely didn't do PSP numbers, but its 10 million units sold is quite respectable, especially with the juggernaut that was the Game Boy as its primary competitor.
Sega actually didn't even officially discontinue the Game Gear until 1997, which seems like a long time to keep alive a platform that fell on its face as hard as so many people think it did. Ask the Sega CD and 32X how quick Sega was to pull the plug on an unprofitable platform during that era.
4 Myth: NES Was More Powerful Than Master System
The current console generation might be the only time in the history of video games that the most powerful console was the best seller. The Wii was the best-seller of its generation, the PlayStation 2 was the best-seller of its generation, and so on, all the way back to the NES. Yes, that's right, we said the NES— because despite the lazy assumption that it beat the Master System because it was more powerful, the Master System was objectively the better piece of hardware from a technological standpoint.
Look no further than Phantasy Star's first-person dungeons for proof of this. Had the Master System had the same development muscle behind it that the NES had, we would've seen just how much better its games were capable of looking.
3 Myth: Saturn Plays Genesis Games Via Its Cartridge Slot
When the world first saw pictures of the Saturn console, everyone immediately noticed that there was a cartridge slot in the rear that looked suspiciously similar to a Genesis cartridge slot. Naturally, speculation ran wild that the Saturn was going to be able to play Genesis games, a theory which proved untrue when it was revealed that the slot was there for various back-up and add-on accessories rather than games.
Still, that hasn't stopped people from keeping alive the myth that the Saturn can play Genesis games if you stick them in that slot and do some sort of other trickery to the Saturn to get it to recognize the cartridges. It's definitely a nice thought, but it's simply not accurate.
2 Myth: The Genesis Can't Do Sprite Scaling And Rotation
While Sega was selling us on the Genesis's imaginary Blast Processing, Nintendo had the very real "Mode 7" effect to brag about that allowed SNES games to scale and rotate their sprites— and basically built an entire game (Pilotwings) just to show that effect off. It may be true that the Genesis doesn't have such a capability built-in, it doesn't mean it can't be done on the Genesis— it just needs to be programmed within the games themselves.
Contra Hard Corps, Road Rash, and Virtual Bart are just a few of the Genesis games with impressive Mode 7-esque effects that prove the trick isn't exclusive to SNES, just that it takes a bit more programming ingenuity to pull off.
1 Myth: A Panzer Dragoon Saga Re-Release Is Literally Impossible
Released basically after the Saturn was already dead in the U.S., Panzer Dragoon Saga got an extremely small print run that has made it one of the most expensive video games of all time among collectors. One of the reasons that people pay top dollar for PDS is that there is a belief that it can't ever be remastered, remade, or even ported to another system since Sega has admitted that the game's original source code has been lost.
However, the same was true of Saturn game Princess Crown, yet programmers were able to reverse-engineer the code from a retail disc and port it to the PSP. In an interview, members of the PDS team pointed to that as proof that a PDS re-release might not be impossible after all— but of course, that would involve Sega actually wanting to bother with it, and that's a whole other issue entirely.
Sources: Polygon.com, Gamasutra.com, Engadget.com, Sega-16.com, SegaRetro.com, SegaNerds.com, "Console Wars" by Blake J. Harris